Mt. Sinai And Mt. Zion, Part 2
(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh in 1978.)
The message that God provides through Jesus Christ is redemption and forgiveness. In verse 25, the writer continues to develop this idea. He gives a strong word of warning about the danger of failing to believe the message that God is giving today in the person of Christ. He says, 'See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.' (Hebrews 12:25) The phrase 'See to it' is written in the present imperative, meaning it is something we are continually to be doing. We are continually to be alert that we do not 'refuse Him who is speaking.' Who is 'He?' He is the person mentioned in verse 24, 'Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.' It also refers to the beginning of Hebrews where we saw that God '...in these last days has spoken to us in His Son...' (Hebrews 1:2).
The emphasis is that we do not 'refuse' Him. The danger is that we refuse or reject what God has to say to us. It is an unwillingness to hear what He has to say. This is exactly what the Israelites did in verse 19. However, they refused to listen because of fear. The danger, the writer to the Hebrews is warning about in verse 25, is disinterest.
The danger of rejecting God is certain judgment. The writer says, 'For if those did not escape when they refused Him on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.' (Hebrews 12:25) Those who refused God in the Old Testament were constantly being judged by God when they refused to do what He commanded. If that was true, how much more will He judge those who refuse His superior revelation in Jesus Christ? This refers to those who have always rejected God, as well as those, like the Hebrews, who have heard the gospel and professed faith, only to turn away to their old system of worship. The answer is that because Christ is superior in every way (as we have seen), the judgment that one incurs from rejecting Him will be that much greater as well.
The writer said the same thing in Hebrews
2:1-4; 'For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we
have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through
angels proved unalterable (the revelation in the Old Testament), and every
transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we
escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken
through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also
bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various
miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.'
The truth is clear: the judgment for rejecting Christ is an eternal
judgment that one cannot escape.
(See also Hebrews 10:28-31)
The writer continues this contrast when he says; 'And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, `yet once more, I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.' (Hebrews 12:26) Again, one will notice the contrast between 'then' and 'now.'We saw in Exodus 19 that when God descended on Mt. Sinai, the whole mountain quaked violently. Now He 'has promised saying `yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.' This is a reference to Haggai 2:6-7, where we are told that another shaking will come that is far more significant than any of the shaking at Mt. Sinai. Before Christ returns to earth, there will be a terrible tribulation, and at that time, all creation (land, sea, stellar heavens, etc) will undergo complete upheaval.
At the end of Haggai 2:7, we are told,
'I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.' This
refers to the second coming of Christ, when He returns to set up His
earthly kingdom at the beginning of the Millennium. There is coming a day
when Christ will return and all those who rejected Him will experience a
judgment that far surpasses anything the Israelites experienced in
connection with Mt. Sinai.
(See also Zechariah 14:4, Matthew 24:29-31, Revelation 6:12-17)
The writer elaborates on what he just said in verse 26. He says, ''Yet once more', which denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.' The first shaking was that which occurred at Mt. Sinai, but now the next shaking will result in the removal of 'created things.' The picture is of a tree that has rotten fruit or dead leaves. When it is shaken, those things are removed from the tree. In like manner, the purpose of the shaking (judgment) of all of creation will be to shake lose the 'bad fruit' (unbelievers). He will remove them from His kingdom, which will be established in righteousness.
The result of this shaking will be '...that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.' (Hebrews 12:27) Those who have trusted in the person and work of Jesus Christ for salvation will not be removed by judgment, and will enter into eternity as citizens of the heavenly city.
The writer elaborates the point that 'those things which cannot be shaken remain' in verse 28. He says, 'Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.' The phrase 'we receive a kingdom' is written in the present tense. Those who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior are in the process of receiving a kingdom because that kingdom has not been established yet. But at that time, we will enter into a kingdom that 'cannot be shaken.' The heavenly city will be safe, secure, and eternal. Everyone who is allowed to enter the kingdom will experience the same security, and the same stability that characterizes the kingdom and the King who rules over it. He is the same '...yesterday, today, and forever.' (Hebrews 13:8).
Since we, as believers, are those inheriting this kingdom we must 'show gratitude' as a result of recognizing what God has done for us in Christ. We should be thankful and appreciative for what we have in Him. It is the result of this attitude that enables us to worship God and '...offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.' (Hebrews 12:28) The writer is saying that only those who are grateful for what God has done in the person and work of Jesus Christ are able to worship Him in an acceptable manner.
The Hebrews needed to recognize this truth. They were in danger of being ungrateful for what God had done and were contemplating returning to their old worship system. They thought that they had more security there. But the writer is saying that real security only exits for those who have trusted Jesus Christ, and are in the process of entering into the kingdom that 'cannot be shaken.' It is the same idea Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians when he said 'Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift' (2 Cor 9:15). The word 'thanks' is the same word we have for 'gratitude' in Hebrews 12:28.
In connection with worship, we are to offer an 'acceptable,' or 'well Pleasing' worship with, 'Reverence and awe.' We are in a unique situation; we can call God 'Father.' We can have a very intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But we cannot become disrespectful, or haphazard in our worship. We must always recognize who He is--the eternal, holy, sovereign God who created you and me, and gave us the privilege of coming into His presence only because of the work accomplished on the cross by His Son.
Chapter 12 ends with a very strong warning,
'For our God is a consuming fire.' (Hebrews 12:29) In other words,
we must worship God in light of what Christ has done, with 'reverence
and awe,' because God is a 'consuming fire.' This is a reference
to Deuteronomy 4:24 where the smoke and fire on Mt. Sinai are a reminder of
the holiness of God which would consume and devour anyone who would not
obey His command. The message to the Hebrews, and to us, is clear; worship
God in an acceptable way. If you return to your old ways of worship, let it
be clear that God is a 'consuming fire.' Your alternatives are
This is the same warning that was given in Hebrews 10:26-30. The writer warned that if we go on 'sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of fire which will consume the adversaries' (Hebrews10:26-27). Because God is righteous and holy, He has no alternative but to judge those who reject His revelation.
Where are you? Are you one who is continually rejecting the revelation of God through Jesus Christ? Or have you come to the point in your life where you recognized that you are a sinner separated from God, destined for an eternal hell apart from the salvation offered through the person and work of His Son? If you have never experienced the salvation provided through Jesus Christ, you are one of those who 'Refuse Him who is speaking.' When you refuse to believe God and accept the salvation provided through the blood of Jesus Christ, He has no alternative but to judge you 'with the fury of fire which will consume the adversaries.' However, if you have come to trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, you will worship God with 'reverence and awe,' and you will enter a kingdom that 'cannot be shaken.'
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